Coaches Behaving BadlyPosted: July 12, 2010
With both Ben and Zack playing travel baseball this summer I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on the little league diamonds of the South Shore. I’m not complaining — there’s nothing better than watching your boys play ball on a beautiful summer evening. I’ve even picked up my old habit of spitting sunflower seeds which I haven’t done since college.
You do see some amazing things on little league fields. And I’m not just talking about astounding hits and spectacular errors. No, I’m talking about coaches behaving badly. Mind you there hasn’t been a major leaguer to come out of Hingham since Mike “King” Kelly starred for the Boston Beaneaters in the 19th century. Sure, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield lives in Hingham but I’d question whether living in a gated community at Black Rock Country Club even counts. And it’s not as if he learned his famed knuckleball on the mean streets of Main Street.
At one recent game we encountered a coach who, after witnessing a few bad plays in the field (ie. little league baseball), literally stopped the game and stood on the third base line to berate his team. All of the wonderful noises of youth baseball – the encouraging chatter, the pounding of fists into mitts, the ping of the ball hitting the bat, even the bell of that blasted ice cream truck — went silent.
With the bases jammed for the Hingham Americans, all eyes were riveted on this coach. Players, parents, younger siblings, even the several dogs in attendance stopped to stare and listen to the embarrassing diatribe which culminated with his screaming “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” Which, of course, was beautiful irony.
There was indeed someone who should have been ashamed. But it certainly wasn’t the poor second baseman who let a ball slip through his legs or the pitcher who became increasingly flustered by a parade of walks punctuated by verbal abuse.
As I stood in disbelief from the third base coach’s box, one of our coaches went over to comfort the second baseman who had burst into tears. One thing’s for sure – the kids on our team have a new appreciation for their own coaches who are encouraging, positive, and take joy in imparting baseball wisdom.
In a fit of hypocrisy, the pseudo-Lombardi later decried a stolen base as “unsportsmanlike.” Sure, we had a nine-run lead at that point but what ten-year-old has ever given up the opportunity to take an extra base on a passed ball? He said to me, “These are nine and ten-year-old kids for God’s sake.” I admit I wagged my finger and said “Exactly.”
I’m off to another game tonight and I know there’ll be some excellent plays, some atrocious ones and all sorts in-between. We can only hope that the coaches — as is usually the case — come with the kids’ best interests at heart.